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Monday, July 22, 2013

'Vehicle 19:' Paul Walker Drives Fast and Furious Through Johannesburg


The Paul Walker action-adventure flick "Vehicle 19," which is being released on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, evokes thoughts of a former professor's regular jokes regarding rental cars. The professor regularly remarked that he and his business colleagues would refer  to the rental automobiles for which they would purchase full-coverage insurance as "disposable cars."

The first comment regarding the professor's comments is to not try that at home. The second comment is that the ordeal that Paul Walker's Micheal Woods puts his rented mini-van through really tests Hertz's concept of full-coverage insurance.

The best thing that can be said about "Vehicle 19" is that it is a much better movie than anticipated. Additionally, the clearer picture and crisper sound associated with the Blu-ray version make it worth spending a few extra bucks to select over the DVD if you decide to add the film to your collection.

"Vehicle 19" does largely consist of the reckless high-speed chases and explosions that one expects from a film starring dreamy Paul Walker of the seemingly never-ending "The Fast and the Furious" series. The added appeal comes in the forms of nice homages to Hitchcock films and the original "Die Hard."

The Hitchcock element of this film primarily relates to randomly placing an average Joe in a highly perilous situation; a lesser element relates to setting the intrigue in what is an ordinary setting for many people. The difference is that Hitchcock is a master of that genre, "Vehicle 19's" director merely holds the audience's attention for 90 minutes.

The comparison to "Die Hard" relates to a sad-sack ex-husband finding himself having to fight a "big bad" while on a last-ditch romantic effort to win back his former spouse, who truly is the love of his life but has become fed up with him.

The simplistic plot of "Vehicle 19" is that Woods is a recently paroled American prisoner who has just arrived in Johannesburg to woe his former  spouse, who works for the American Embassy there. The former Mrs. Woods' discontent extends beyond Michael's "unfortunate  incarceration" to his heavy drinking and seemingly all-around lack of reliability.

Woods has rented a sedan but soon discovers that Hertz has provided him a mini-van. Using a typical plot-advancement method, Woods' haste to meet his former spouse motivates him to keep the mini-van over the objection of the Hertz rep. to whom he speaks on his cell phone.

The suspense builds as Woods adapts to driving on "the wrong side of the road" and tries to make sense of the confusing street names. He also gets uneasy as he travels through particularly foreign-looking poverty-stricken areas of Johannesburg.

The story then heats up as Woods discovers a cell phone in the car. That leads to arranging with the intended renters of the mini-van to meet for the purported purpose of swapping vehicles. Any movie-goer over the age of five know that things are not going to end that simply.

Woods next finds a gun and subsequently a bound woman in the vehicle. Once Woods convinces the woman that he is a good guy, she tells him that she is a prosecutor working on a case against the especially powerful operators of an enterprise that is involved in a particularly ugly aspect of prostitution. The bad guys had kidnapped her and dumped her and the other discovered items in the mini-van as the prelude to having someone kill her.

The game is soon afoot, and said fast and furious chases commence. A personal favorite involves a detour through a grocery store. The patrons were no longer shopping happily that day.

Stating that the bad guys ultimately face justice is hardly a spoiler. The unknowns relate to who survives, how the chases unfold, and whether Woods and his former spouse reunite or he decides to move on.

On a more general note, "Vehicle 19" achieves it purpose of providing 90 minutes of escapist fun on a Friday night. Additionally, the wide gaps in the plot that Walker could drive a Winnebago through do not matter because his brooding good looks and the action sequences are the film's main attributes. This film is more of a savory appetizer than a sweet desert and is a perfectly valid part of any movie-watching diet.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Vehicle 19" is welcome to email me. Anyone interested in learning more about "The Fast and the Furious" series is out of luck; I have never seen any of the films and often confuse Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson.

Folks who are generally interested in updates regarding "Unreal TV" are welcome to connect via Twitter by following @tvdvdguy.